WE CANNOT LET KILMER OFF ON THESE ISSUES!
There is a lot of room for continuing to inform – even pressure – Kilmer with the many questions we have raised, most particularly about the discrepancy between the Navy’s claims of “no significant danger” and the scientific research we have uncovered that the noise and radiation are, indeed, incredibly dangerous. He seems to be willing to engage in this and other types of accountability, something we haven’t heard elsewhere from any elected official, locally or nationally. Most particularly we would like to press the point that the Navy produce their evidence that there is no significant danger which several articles say they simply can’t do, don’t have, and want to avoid. That is one of the areas we could press Kilmer. We can demand that any approval for their continued expansion is contingent on their providing research that proves they are not damaging us. And we need to engage with the other Congressional reps with the same demand.
Thank you for contacting me about the Navy’s proposed electronic warfare range on the Olympic Peninsula. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
As you know, the Navy is interested in developing an electronic warfare range to enable Navy pilots to simulate responding to the threat of electronic warfare. The proposal calls for the installation and operation of a mission control and debriefing center in Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, a fixed emitter near Pacific Beach, communications equipment on an existing tower in the Olympic Military Operations Area, and the use of three mobile vehicles outfitted with electronics.
As someone who grew up on the Olympic Peninsula, I know just how important it is that we are taking steps to protect our natural resources and limit the impact that aircraft noise will have on our quality of life. Our region is home to extraordinary natural treasures and to a national park that gets 3.5 million visitors a year. I’m certainly mindful of that.
At the same time, our region is also home to a significant naval presence and no matter what happens with this particular proposal, the Navy is still going to be our neighbor. So we have to find a way to work through these issues.
It is clear that the Navy failed to do an adequate job of informing communities regarding their proposals. People have a right to know exactly what they have planned on public lands, what type of impacts the activities will have on the environment and quality of life, and have a right to weigh in. The Navy should have been more active in soliciting public feedback and input throughout this process. Many folks in our region have legitimate questions regarding how the Navy’s activities will impact human health, wildlife, and the environment. I think the Navy has an obligation to answer those questions and make sure that everyone has a chance to be heard in this process.
At my urging, the Navy did conduct meetings in Forks, Port Angeles, and later one in Grays Harbor County. I think those meetings gave folks on the Peninsula a better understanding of the Navy’s process and provided citizens some avenue to raise questions and concerns.
Now the Forest Service is taking a look of their own – including going through the public comments they gathered from people across the Peninsula. This is part of a process that has been written into the law (under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA) for decades. As part of that process, federal agencies are taking a look at the environmental impact this range will have. Anywhere you look around the country, when military operations like the range are being proposed, they go through a review process.
At the same time, I’ve actually engaged with the folks I represent – and with the Navy – to gather information. In addition, over the month of January, I conducted seven town hall meetings (six in-person and one by telephone). During each of those seven discussions, I had the opportunity to hear concerns from citizens directly. In the days since I’ve been active in conveying those concerns – as well as my own questions – to the appropriate agencies and the Navy as they weigh potential impacts. It’s why I asked for – and received – a response from the Navy regarding their plans regarding the use of the emitters, the signals they send, and the expected flights as part of the range. That information will be important because even if the range is approved, it’s not the end of the story. This is an ongoing process.
It’s worth going into detail on some of the specific concerns that I’ve heard and what I’m working to do so those concerns are addressed.
I’ve heard from some folks concerned about the impact on the wilderness area and on human and animal safety from the trucks and emitters. We have a responsibility to protect the habitats of endangered species and the natural resources of our local forests and national parks. Consequently, I reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ask them for their opinion on the Navy proposal and the “no significant impact” finding that resulted from the Navy’s Environmental Assessment. The Fish and Wildlife Service is the agency with expertise on endangered species. In response to my inquiry, the Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that they will revisit their 2010 Biological Opinion concerning the Navy’s proposed actions to reflect all of the Navy’s currently planned activites in our region. At the same time, I’m working to make sure that – if this proposal moves forward – the Navy implements appropriate steps to minimize exposure to animals and humans.
I’ve heard concerns from some folks that the Navy might engage in offensive training efforts or use jamming technologies that could impact civilian communications. While the Navy has indicated that such exercises are not part of their plans, I am looking at potential opportunities to ensure that – if the range moves forward – these concerns would be addressed.
I’ve heard from some folks who are concerned about the noise from planes flying over the Peninsula. The Navy has stated that the types of training missions they undertake for the electronic training range are best served by flying at higher altitudes. At the same time, I don’t think people on the Peninsula should be asked to simply take that on faith. As a result, I’m looking at legislative actions that could be taken to ensure that the Navy sticks to a given altitude. I’m also working with Senator Murray, Representative Larsen and others to look at new technologies and infrastructure that could mitigate noise concerns related to growler flights – regardless of whether the new range moves forward. What’s more, I believe that substantially more sound monitoring should be done – even with regard to current Naval operations – to understand the problem and how it can be mitigated.
Furthermore, I’ve heard from some folks who have raised the concern that the range is one of several projects that the Navy is currently considering. As part of the process, the Navy is going through a number of separate reviews. Some reviews take a broad look at all of the Navy’s test and training activities in the region, while others look at more narrow topics, such as the effects of additional aircraft, increased use of sonobuoys, and mobile electromagnetic emitters.
For clarity, proposed Navy-related projects in Washington state include:
· Electronic Warfare Range – Requesting a special-use permit from the U.S. Forest Service to operate mobile emitters on Forest Service roads related to the Electronic Warfare Range. The Navy held a public comment period in August and later issued a Finding of No Significant Impact on August 28, 2014. In order to consider the Navy’s request, the Forest Service is going through its own permitting process. The public comment period for the special-use permit closed on November 28, 2014.
· EA-18G Growler Airfield Operations – The Navy is seeking to add 36 EA-18G Growler jets to the current set based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. A comment period for the draft environmental impact statement closed January 9, 2015. If you wish to provide comments associated with the potential increase in jets at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island please visit the Navy’s website on this project for additional information.
· Draft Northwest Training and Testing EIS / OEIS – This document reviews the broader gambit of activities within Navy Region Northwest. Recently, a supplemental document was issued to clarify the number of sonobuoys, maritime security operations, and other changes. The public had the opportunity to provide comments on these activities until February 2, 2015. Please visit this website to learn more about this project.
· Pier at Coast Guard Station in Port Angeles – The Coast Guard and Navy are looking into constructing a pier off of the Coast Guard station in Port Angeles to accommodate blocking vessels that protect Navy submarines as they enter and exit Puget Sound. It’s intended to help members of the Coast Guard protect the submarines without getting fatigued. The Navy recently released a Description of Proposed Action and Alternatives (DPAA) document outlining this proposed project. The public is encouraged to provide comments before February 25, 2015. Written comments may be e-mailed to email@example.com or mailed directly to:
Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest
Attention: NEPA Project Manager/TPS Facilities
1101 Tautog Circle, Room 203
Silverdale, WA 98315-1101
· Land-Water Interface and Service Pier Extension – This project attempts to increase security around the Navy’s submarines while they are in port in Bangor and to extend a pier at that facility. The public comment period on the project closed on March 17, 2013.
I am continuing to conduct oversight on this issue by meeting with the appropriate agencies – including the Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency — to learn more about this process and what, if any, role they play. In addition, I’m working with the agencies to understand what potential actions are on the table for addressing the community’s concerns.
Our region is grateful for the Navy and those that serve in it. At the same time, we also take pride in our tremendous quality of life and natural environment, and we want to make sure neither is negatively impacted by proposed projects. In the end, our community at large functions best when open and honest dialogue – that is grounded in fact and science – occurs. That is what I am pushing for.
Please know, that I will continue to keep your thoughts in mind, as I work with the Navy to further understand this project, research opportunities to minimize the impact on our community, and ensure that they improve their communications throughout our region.
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